State - Detroit Program teaches city's teen girls how to avoid pregnancy Citywide initiative tackles low literacy levels, too

By Nicquel Terry

Associated Press Writer

DETROIT (AP) -- In a classroom of about 30 ninth-grade girls, Staci Williams asked, "What is a pap smear?"

While some students blurted out answers, there were a few gasps from the group. With help from students, Williams explained that it was an examination of a woman's cervix that should be done yearly.

Williams and a group of mentors and professionals spoke last week at Osborn College Preparatory Academy about hygiene and sexual health as part of the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Collaborative.

This was the fifth session out of a six-week pilot program spearheaded by City Councilman James Tate.

Instructors have weekly discussions with the students about safe sex practices, STD awareness and personal hygiene.

Tate said the program is part of a citywide initiative to tackle low literacy levels, lack of mentoring and high teen pregnancy rates.

Targeting students at a young age and transition stage is the key to molding the next generation, Tate said.

A survey shows the Osborn neighborhood has one of the five highest teen pregnancy rates in Detroit, said Williams, a spokeswoman for the program. About 50 to 60 students are in the Osborn program, which is an optional course.

Osborn Principal Thomas Parker said the students seem to be learning a lot from the program.

"A lot of our students have challenges at home," Parker said. "If we don't begin to address some of those social issues at the school then we run the risk of not being able to address them at all."

Osborn ninth-grader JaLikka Jetter said the program has been helpful. She said her favorite session involved a former teen mother who spoke to the group about her experiences.

"I now know how to protect myself and not to get caught up in teen pregnancy," said the 14-year-old.

Published: Tue, Jun 1, 2010